University Products Sponsors “Making Mannequins with Fosshape” Workshop

On November 17th and 18th the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted Fosshape Workshops sponsored by University Products, Inc. As part of the 2015 North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC) the workshop allowed textile conservators from throughout the world to learn about and work with both Fosshape 300 and 600, donated by University Products. The workshop was led by Shelly Uhlir from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Her presentation showed how they had used Fosshape in numerous exhibits and allowed them to be able to easily, effectively, and accurately create mannequins for their museum. Once the presentation was completed, workshop participants spent the remaining time working with Fosshape. Three stations were set up to work with Fosshape to create torso, head, and hand mannequin pieces. The participants enjoyed the hands on time, allowing them to be both creative and learn how using Fosshape can be of use in their own museums and private practices. Participants were from countries including the U.S., U.K.. Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. All enjoyed learning about and working with Fosshape.
Making Mannequins with Fosshape

Tale of the Three Dresses

A wedding dress can serve as one of the most symbolic and treasured items of clothing in a woman’s closet. Throughout history, brides have long anticipated the occasion to wear exclusive fabrics and rich materials of a luminous color. Let’s be honest – wedding dress is designed to make every girl feel like a princess!

Specialist textile conservators at the Historic Royal Palaces recently completed a major project to conserve five iconic British royal wedding dresses. These wedding dresses are kept in carefully controlled storage conditions at Kensington Palace, enveloped in many layers of protective and supportive packaging materials. The silk satin wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1840 is among one of the most popular dresses in the collection, as it set the trend of white wedding dresses for years to come. If you are seeking the royal treatment for your own special garment, we have some tips and products that will help you conserve your precious gown for years to come!

Unless you want to “trash” your wedding dress (for personal reasons), preserving it is much easier and more affordable than you think! Conserve your gown the way museum professionals do using all archival quality supplies from University Products.

What You Will Need:
• Clean gown. All additional pieces removed and stored separately.
Large textile box. Textile conservators prefer white poly box because it is lightweight yet sturdy, and won’t snag the fragile fabric.
White cotton gloves. Always wear gloves to handle something that can deteriorate from contact with human secretions (yes, even tiny amounts of natural oil that can hide in your fingers. Overtime the invisible “fingerprints” can turn into ugly stains and destroy delicate fabrics.
Unbuffered acid-free tissue paper. Put down a few layers on the bottom of the box, lower the dress, folding it in as few places as possible and place rolls of loosely crumpled tissue paper within the folds. Stuff the sleeves and the area between shoulders with similar “rolls” of tissue paper. Your dress will hold shape and won’t wrinkle from long term storage. Put some more tissue in the corners so the dress won’t move even if the box is being transported. Cover everything on top with a few more loose layers of tissue.
• Add a packet of Silica Gel Desiccant for some internal moisture control.
It is best to store the dress in the conditions that are comfortable for a human! No musty and cold basements or dry and hot attics. Drastic changes in humidity and/or temperature are very very bad for your dress. And our goal is to make it last as long as possible, right?

What NOT to do:
• Don’t try to preserve a dress that is dirty, soiled with sweat, dirt or food.
• Don’t encapsulate the dress in air-less container. Vacuum is not good for the fabric, it will start to deteriorate.
• Do not use boxes with clear windows. They might be pretty, but light will discolor part of the dress that is showing through and it will become different from the rest of the garment.
• Keep away from dust and mold.
• No basements and attics, high humidity or dryness, extreme heat or cold.

What You Should Do:
• Have the gown looked at by a textile preservation specialist or at least professionally dry-cleaned.
• All little rips/snags should be mended, loose threads tied up and hidden. All additional decorations (especially those with metal base) removed and stored separately.
• Obtain a large, acid-free textile box that will easily fit the dress and some tissue paper.
• Handle everything in gloves.

To illustrate this blog post, we used 3 generations of beautiful white dresses, courtesy of one of our treasured #TeamUPI members – Kim. They are her grandmother’s, mother’s and her own wedding gowns. All three were carefully preserved and sent home in archival textile boxes, padded with acid-free tissue paper.

Preserving the Time Capsule Contents

Images recently surfaced of items from a “time capsule” that was buried beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795.  The items were originally placed there by Samuel Adams (then governor of Massachusetts) and Paul Revere.  The box was opened in 1855, cataloged, and reassembled with new materials added from that time period.

Among the contents were 23 coins, a medal decorated with the face of George Washington, and several period newspapers, along with a plaque describing the laying of the original cornerstone.  You can read more about it in this Slate article.

Historical significance aside, what we liked seeing were all these treasured displayed in various archival storage products.  The coins were laid out on Corrosion Intercept®, which protects metal artifacts by reacting with and neutralizing corrosive gasses and place inside Artifact Specimen Trays.  There were also a number of Artifact Storage Trays with Clear View Lids that allow you to view the contents while protecting them from dirt and dust.  Acid-free Folders and Tissue also were visible in the images.

It’s fitting then that in March, University Products will exhibit and be a sponsor at a joint meeting between the New England Archivist (NEA) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Boston!  Members of both NEA and MARAC have been working together diligently over the past year to bring you a fantastic three-day program that is diverse, interesting, and collaborative. There are sessions, workshops, repository tours, a Day of Service community volunteer day, and more.  And of course, there is the opportunity to network with members of the archival profession from two regional organizations.

Creating a Family Archive at the Thanksgiving Table

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we begin to anticipate a day filled with family, friends, food, celebration, sharing, and gratitude. Our Thanksgiving Day traditions are largely centered on family history, whether it is a special dish served every year, or a large gathering in a relative’s home.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving includes recipe planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. This Thanksgiving, in addition to bringing food to the table, we seek to include a serving of family history.

We challenge you to join us in establishing a new family tradition by creating a family archive this holiday! Perhaps you’ll get inspired by the following fun ideas:

  • Bring out the photos! Dig out some old photos to pass around the table. This is a great way to spark memories and perhaps identify some of the unknown people in your photos! Afterwords, make sure to use archival quality albums or Boxes for your family treasures. Check out our Heritage Scrapbooks, Album Pages, and sleek Portfolio Binders.
  • Ask your relatives to share stories! Begin by asking elders at the table if they can remember what they typically ate for Thanksgiving when they were younger. Bring a small digital voice recorder and tape the conversations! Check out the Smithsonian’s Interview Guide for more ideas of questions to ask relatives!
  • Bring your camera and take new pictures! Invite your family to join a photo sharing website, or create a traditional Photo Album. Add new snapshots every year! These pictures can even serve as great holiday greeting cards or Postcards!
  • Time CapsuleIf you’ve inherited a family recipe, ask around the table and see if anyone wants to create an informal family cookbook. Our archivally safe Albums &  Pages can help collect and safely store the collected recipes and complete your project!
  • Create your very own family Time Capsule and decide on the date in the future to open it. Perhaps, Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years? Or even 20! Collect personal “artifacts” from all family members in presence and don’t forget to request something to be sent from the absentees.
  • Save information about items of sentimental (and/or monetary) value, by working on the Heirloom Diary together – the book contains space for detailing family heirlooms as well as the story behind them.
  • For the children at the table, create a family genealogy game by challenging them to match baby pictures to adult pictures. Or, make a personalized memory game using your own photos. Use their creative talents to build a family tree (2- or even 3-dimensional!) The children will become very familiar with their relatives, especially those they may not see very often.

These simple steps can help make your Thanksgiving a time of sharing family history and working to create a unique family archive. You may just discover information you have never known and learn something about your ancestors that you never imagined. You may even be surprised how your family traditions today have carried on or evolved between generations. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Custom Mount Making for Books

There are so many ways to display books, and by using Vivak® Polyester Sheets, you can create a unique design that safely shows off your book’s best features.

In our How-To: Mount Making using Vivak Polyester Sheets tutorial we have instructions to create a basic mount out of Vivak. For cutting any mount out of this material it is best to use the Swivel Blade Acrylic Cutters or Heavy Duty Blade.

The great thing about Vivak is that it becomes soft and pliable when heated, making it easy to form into almost any shape. Once it cools it retains in the shape it has been given and offers superior impact strength. To create creases, you can save time, effort, and obtain better results by using an Acrylic Sheeting Bending Strip. This will heat only the narrow area that is being formed. For a wider, more gradual bend, it is best to use a Heat Gun.

Besides the style of book mount shown in our How-To, there are many ways to create one specifically for your needs. You can experiment with combining boards and Vivak, and using display accessories like Clear Polyester Strips. Here we have examples of other styles thanks to Tim Corlis at Rutgers University, Special Collections & University Archives.

Robert Fulton’s Birthday

Robert Fulton , who was born on November 14, 1765, in Little Britain, PA, was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing the first commercially successful steamboat. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to design the Nautilus, which was the first practical submarine in history. He is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the British Navy.

University Products’ founder, Dave Magoon, is quite a collector of paper ephemera and we were able to get our hands (and cameras) on some of the pieces from his collection related to Robert Fulton and his amazing inventions. The best way to protect paper artifacts such as these is to ensure they are stored in a dry cool place. Archival encapsulation (to shield it from dust, dirt and other dangers) as well as appropriate box storage solution (to protect from light and other hazardous elements) can greatly extend the life of even most fragile paper treasures.

Museum on the Move

In some places they say moving is worse than (or at least equals) an earthquake. Now imagine moving a fragile and priceless Museum collection? Or, better yet, the entire museum! The challenges that museum professionals face when presented with a task of packing, transporting and re-installing precious artifacts can be daunting.
Each individual item needs to be assessed, based on it’s individual qualities and state. Precise measurements need to be taken. Custom temporary housing that can withstand the hazards of traveling (be it by air, or by car/truck) needs to be created. Special traveling arrangements, including such diverse details as security and climate control during the journey, have to be made.
Amongst several institutions that recently undertook such monumental tasks and lived to tell the tale, is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which lent one of 64 objects from 21 collections that were delivered and set up at Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, OR. UPenn even dispatched a specialist, Katy Blanchard, keeper of the Near East collection, to head the unloading and installation of a 5,000 year old sculpture on loan for the ongoing show “Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth: Ancient Near Eastern Art From American Collections” which will be on display at Hallie Ford until the end of this year.

Now, the process of moving the entire collection of Alaska State Museum to a brand new Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums building in Juneau hasn’t even started, but the staff and volunteers are hard at work, packing it all up and getting everything ready. Even though the trip won’t be long and most of the items will be moved on carts via a tunnel that will be built between the old and the new buildings, the task is not an easy one. Apparently there’s no manual on how to move a museum collection, so they had to improvise a lot.

Ivory cribbage boards sit in custom storage mounts made by museum professional Jon Loring. Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau.

Individually designed custom mounts and boxes were devised for each fragile item in the collection. Literally, each drawer, display and a box  of items has a special plan. Every item is numbered and the numbers are linked with the museum’s database which helps to keep track of the entire collection. Although they are still in the beginning of this road, museum staff are confident that by this time in 2016 when the new building opens it’s door, all the precious artifacts will be safely moved and preserved for admiration by the many generations ahead.
ethafoam planksAmong the many useful tools that might help to achieve such a task are:
Ethafoam planks, rods and sheets – lightweight, versatile archival foam material which is ideal for creating mounts, temporary, as well as long term storage housing for oddly-shaped 3-dimensional artifacts. Ethafoam cutting and shaping tools are also available.
Artifact Bubble Wrap and/or Polyester Batting will provide much needed cushioning and protection on the move.
Drop-N-Tell and Tip-N-Tell indicators together with large warningA-Frame Painting Transport Cart labels will serve as a caution against rough handling during shipping.
• Perma/Cor E-Flute and B-Flute Corrugated Board is a prefect material for creating custom-sized (and shaped) protective enclosures and boxes.
Glass Shield and Adjustable Frame Corner Protectors will temporarily protect your framed art from damage during the move.
A-Frame Painting Transport Cart is perfect for moving large heavy items around and beyond the museum walls.

How to Hold it Together in the Archival World

Keeping it TogetherRead the article Keeping It All Together: Paper Fasteners at the National Archives in the Prologue Magazine Blog about the dangers brought upon archived documents by the little (or large) clips and other common office supplies of this nature. But what are the archivally acceptable means of  “keeping it together”?

• First of all, make sure to carefully extract any and all of the existing clips and staples or remove rubber bands and threads. Smooth out the indentations and holes left by them and make sure there’s no  left over “debris”.Brass paper clips

• Although some Stainless Steel, Brass, Plastic and Binder Clips are perfectly ok for short term storage and handling, long term use of any of them might lead to contamination and/or physical damage to the important paper artifacts, ephemera and documents.adjustable rare book storage box

• For permanent archival storage of larger items, especially the more fragile ones, we recommend housing them individually rather than in groups. For example, Adjustable Rare Book Storage Boxes give you flexibility in terms of size and they do keep the item together by applying gentle but firm pressure on all sides. These kinds of items are best stored vertically, fully supported all around.

• Items of various materials, age and damage level should not be combined inside the same enclosure to avoid cross-contamination. However, individual documents can be contained and preserved by putting them into clear enclosures and then grouped together inside folders or envelopes

• The smaller groups of items should be placed inside strong, archivally safe boxes to preserve them from physical damage, dust, dirt and light, the archenemies of the aging paper. Moisture-resistant options are also available and provide an extra layer of protection, especially for natural disaster-prone areas.

Using Fosshape for Mountmaking

Fosshape is revolutionary light weight material for mountmakingFosshape, the new specially engineered polyester material looks and feels like felt in it’s raw state, shrinks about 25% and stiffens from applied heat. Because of it’s infinite flexibility, it is ideal for creating low-cost lightweight forms for costume or hat display. Fosshape is durable for indoor or outdoor use and even breathable. It saves valuable time and labor during the construction process, since no messy additives or drying/setup time are required. All synthetic, it is not affected by humid conditions or water, and is mold and mildew resistant. University Products offers Fosshape in 2 different weights/thicknesses. Please see How-To Tips with instructions on using Fosshape and more technical information. Also, watch our new video on creating a dress form out of Fosshape using both a steamer and a heat gun: